OLong ago, there was a young rat and his
mate who lived in a hollow tree in the deep woods. They were very happy there,
and soon enough the young ratwife found she was expecting a cub. One day while
she was with child the young ratwife went outside to fetch water from the
stream. As she walked, she came upon a neat little garden, in which there was a
patch of sweet rampion. Now, as is the way of females with cub, she was overcome
with longing to taste the sweet plants. She fell to her knees, tore up a bunch
of rampion, and began to devour it.
To her horror, a shadow fell over her. She looked up to see an old vixen standing over her, brandishing a knife. She knew by the stranger's garb that she was a Seer, and her heart quailed.
"Those plants belong to me!" snarled the Seer. "How dare thee trespass upon my land! A curse shall be upon thy foolish head for this!"
The young wife threw herself down in the dirt and grovelled at the hag's footpaws. "Oh, forgive me, my lady. I realised not that this was thy garden! I carry a babe in my belly and I was overcome with my cravings."
"Very well," said the old witch grudgingly. "Take as much as thou wilt, but when thy child is born I shall come and take it for mine own! I swear I shall care for it as if 'twere mine, for I never bore a kit myself and I long for company."
The young ratwife thought this was a very fine deal - after all, she could always have another child - and so she agreed. And soon enough she bore a fine healthy she-cub with strong sharp teeth and the longest thickest tail you ever did see. Yes, my dears, longer even than that of Cluny the Scourge. And the Seer came in the night as she had sworn, and took the cub away.
No, my dears, I don't know what happened to the babe's parents, my mother never told me that part. Perhaps they lived happily ever after and had more cubs, or perhaps the rat slew his wife for selling their child in exchange for a mouthful of greenstuff. Nobeast knows, but this is not really their story, is it?
The Seer took the little maid away and kept her in her hut beside the little garden, and she named the little maid Sweet-Rampion, after the plant for which her mother had sacrificed her child. Sweet-Rampion grew up over the seasons until she was tall and strong and very beautiful, but there was one thing odd about her. Her tail grew, and grew, and grew longer still, until she could trail it in the river without stepping out of the hut, and still it grew some more!
Now the Seer was a very jealous old witch, and she could not stand that Sweet-Rampion was growing up to be more beautiful than she had ever been as a maid - yes, Seers were young once too, my dears. Why, you could grow up to be one if you like, and tell the fortunes of the warlords. Yes, males can be Seers too if they try very hard, my little lad. But back to my tale, or rather Sweet-Rampion's tail, if you'll excuse the joke. The Seer was very jealous of her little prize, but she loved her like the cub she never had and did not want to kill her. So she decided to keep her shut away where nobeast could ever see her and marvel at her. So when the little maid reached her teen-seasons, the Seer found a very tall tree - the tallest tree in all the woodlands! - with a smooth straight trunk with very hard smooth bark, that not even a squirrel could climb straight up. She climbed up the tree nearest to it until she could reach the few strong branches at the very top, then she climbed those, and built a little hut on the very top branches, and took Sweet-Rampion up the tree and left her there. And she chopped down the tree she had climbed up, so nobeast could get up there again.
Of course Sweet-Rampion was not happy at all living in the treetop. Treetops are places for silly birds and squirrels, not for rats. So she would sit and pass the time by singing to herself. She sang beautifully; so beautifully that little birds would fly up to hear her. The Seer was proud of her, for this meant they never lacked meat.
Of course the Seer had to get up the tree to catch these birds, but she found a way to get up. Every day she stood at the roots of the big tree, and called out "Sweet-Rampion, let down your tail." And the little rat would let down her tail, which was ever so long and strong by now, until the very tip brushed the ground. And the Seer would use it to help pull herself up. Isn't that clever? And she would usually bring bread and fruit for Sweet-Rampion, for she still cared for the little maid, especially now there was no other beast to look upon her and compare them.
Anyway, one day a brave young warriormouse was wandering through the woods nearby - yes, my dears, a fine strong young mouse he was, and he carried a great sword upon his back. What a vile creature, indeed. No, my dears, don't cry, the nasty mouse isn't here. But anyway, he was wandering through the woods, and Sweet-Rampion was sitting in her little treetop home, singing as usual, and of course the horrid little mouse heard her. So he followed the sound until he came to the roots of the very big tree. He walked all around it, but could find no way to climb up.
Suddenly he heard a rustling in the bushes, and ran to hide nearby. He watched as the Seer appeared, and she called out "Sweet-Rampion, let down your tail!" And my, but wasn't he surprised when the end of a long, long, long tail fell down from the tree, and the Seer used it to pull herself up. So he waited and waited until sunset, when the Seer came back down the tree with her strange climbing rope, and he waited until she was gone, and then he ran up to the tree and shouted - say it with me, dears - "Sweet-Rampion, let down your tail!" And down came the tail, and up went the mouse!
Now Sweet-Rampion was very surprised to hear a stranger's voice calling her, but she was very curious too, and so she let her tail down. She was also surprised by how light the newcomer was - much lighter than the old Seer. And when he came up into her little hut, oh my! She was a little scared, for you see, my dears, she had never seen a mouse before. Well, except once or twice on a spit over the fire. But he spoke very prettily to her, and he made no move to draw the great sword upon his back. He told her how beautiful he found her singing and her face, and soon they both forgot that she was a rat and he was a mouse, and swore to be joined as mates.
The warriormouse begged Sweet-Rampion to come away with him, but she was afraid of the Seer's vengeance. For several days he visited her every sundown after the Seer had left, and begged her to leave with him, and every time she refused. But little by little he wore away her resistance, and she finally decided to flee with him.
"Yes," she said. "I have tarried here too long - and what do I care for the Seer? The old witch claims to love me, and yet she shut me up here! I shall flee and be free with one who truly cares for me! But how am I to get down? I could tie my tail to a branch and climb down it that way, but I cannot untie my tail from the top of the tree when I am at the bottom! No, you must bring me some long strong ropes, and I shall weave them together into one rope long enough to reach the ground."
Each day the warriormouse brought a rope, and each day Sweet-Rampion unfastened the ends of each rope and wove them tightly into the next one, making one long rope. The tree was so very high that even with the biggest ropes the mouse could bring, it would take a score of them to reach the ground.
On the thirteenth day, the old Seer came to visit and noticed that Sweet-Rampion had been looking ill, and asked her if she was sick.
"I do feel strange, my lady," said Sweet-Rampion. "Why has my dress been getting so much tighter?"
The Seer's eyes widened in horror as she sniffed and realised the truth. Yes, dears; the silly ratmaid was fat with the mouse's cubs.
"Oh, thou wicked little rodent!" she snarled. "I raise thee, I keep thee safe here, and this is how I am repaid? Well, my dear, thou hast failed in thine attempts to outfox this fox!"
And with those words the Seer took Sweet-Rampion's long lovely tail in her paws and tore it straight off. The silly little rat shrieked and fainted dead away. The Seer tied the bleeding severed tail to a hook by the door of the little treehouse and waited for the mouse to come. And come he did, of course, but instead of Sweet-Rampion he found the old Seer, waiting for him.
"Aha! So not only does my little maid deceive me, she deigned to mate with thee? A lowly mouse?" snarled the old vixen. "Go, find her thyself!" With that, she leapt at him, and in his terror he jumped from the tree and landed in a thorn bush, which broke his fall without breaking all his bones, but the thorns stuck him all over and pierced the eyes from his silly little head.
And so Sweet-Rampion and her warrior both bled to death, her from her tail-stump and him from the thorn-wounds, and the Seer took them and made a fine stew of them. Which only served them right for getting silly ideas. Rats and mice must never mix, dears; vermin we are, and vermin we shall stay, however many stupid little mice try to drag us off with them!
"Sweet Rampion" was the name given to Rapunzel in one version of the story I heard. I figured it was more appropriate for Mossflower than the possibly-German "Rapunzel". The pregnancy being the sign of what was going on is from older versions of the story - it's both more appropriate for vermin and more likely than the heroine just blurting it out, like most versions have her do. Mice and rats cannot in fact interbreed - different genuses, their genetic patterns are just slightly too different - but hey, it's a fairytale.
And the ending is because I'm so damn bitter about all the fluffy-wuffy ky00t reformed vermin in fic, I admit it. (C'mon, it's not like the Abbeydwellers haven't canonically TRIED to be nice to them and have the vermin cause their attempts to fail miserably.) Gave me some problems, I thought it might be too abrupt, but since this is effectively parody that's not too much of a problem.
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